Dead Giveaway by Angel Zapata.

I spent twenty-five years in prison for murder. I’m not back on the street more than six hours before I have to put another guy in the ground. Some Latin cat named, Eggie. Jesus. What kind of name is that?

Most of the hardnosed bastards I ran with were long dead and the neighborhood had changed. The mayor decided to eliminate strip clubs and pool halls and replace them with chain restaurants and Disney souvenir shops. Took me two hours to find a bar. I didn’t stay long. I missed seeing titties while I drank.

Outside, the city was dark.

The motel I used to stay at was gone. They built a Wal-Mart over it.

I took a deep breath and rubbed the scars on my knuckles. I needed cigarettes. Figured I’d case the joint. Three feet through the door, some old lady asked if I wanted a shopping cart.

“Does it come with a built-in ashtray?”

She didn’t think I was funny.

I wandered around. Never found the aisle for smokes. Everything had changed. TV’s were flatter, VHS tapes were extinct, and computers folded up like wallets. They were selling baby diapers right next to hatchets.

It wasn’t my world no more.

From the corner of my eye, I noticed a young, dark-skinned punk shoplifting. The kid was talented, shoving packages of steak and ground beef into the lining of his coat. Too bad he kept flicking nervous fingers through his hair. Tell-tale sign. Two overweight security guards tore through the swinging doors like a couple of gorillas.

The kid became wind.

He was laughing and kicking over potato chip racks as he ran for the exit.

I was curious. I broke into a light jog behind the trio. I’ll admit I was rooting for the young buck.

Out front, officers Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum were elbows over knees, breathing hard on the asphalt. They had lost the skinny bastard. Gotta think like a thief to catch one. I strolled around the east side of the building and walked straight back.

There he was, loading his score into the trunk of his beat-up Chevy Nova.

We met eyes and he smiled defiantly. I shot him a half-hearted salute and offered a grin. Kid had balls.

Next thing I know, this shit-brown van pulled up beside him and opened fire.

Pop-pop-pop.

People were shouting, diving for cover.

The kid was bleeding moonlight through his chest.

Tires spun and burned black smoke.

Poof!

Trigger man was gone.

In that moment, I felt something strange. I guess it was sympathy.

The punk was choking on his own blood. I sprinted over and knelt down beside him. His dark eyes were cloudy.

“Eggie,” he coughed. “He’ll kill Linda too. Please.”

He handed me a slip of paper. I unfolded it. There was an address scrawled in pencil. “What’s your name?” I asked quietly.

“Erwin,” he wheezed.

“I’m Anthony.”

“Tell Linda that, that…” He trembled and died with a look of complete horror on his blood-spattered face.

“Don’t worry,” I promised. “I will.”

A crowd began to form around us.

I rifled through his pockets and found nothing significant. Some gum and a pack of cigarettes. I kept both.

“Hey buddy!” Some dude was walking up on me. “What you think you’re doing, bro?”

“Mind your fucking business,” I warned.

I jumped up, searched the trunk. Found a tire iron and red meat from four different supermarkets. He’d been busy.

Mr. Nosy tapped me on the shoulder. Bad move. The tire iron had a good weight in my hand.

Thump.

Good night.

Place was getting hot. Linda lived six blocks away. Got there in two minutes.

All those years locked up, I never could make restitution for my sins. This was my first real chance.

Someone had broken the light bulb in the foyer of Linda’s building. There was glass all over the tile floor. I slipped in silently and rang the doorbell with the tip of my tire iron.

“Hello?” There was a woman’s voice on the intercom.

“I’m looking for Linda,” I said urgently.

“Who’s this?”

“Erwin sent me.”

A pause.

“You a friend of his?”

“No.”

Another pause.

 “Is he okay?”

“No.”

The intercom buzzer screamed. I pushed the door open. Linda was waiting for me on the third floor steps. She was a little thing with green eyes, short black hair and light skin.

“Who are you?” She asked.

“Anthony. Anthony Barici,” I said, slightly out of breath.

“Where’s Erwin?”

“I hate to tell you, but he was shot.”

“Is he dead?” She bowed her head.

“Yeah.”

She turned around and walked back into her apartment.

“He told me it was a guy named, Eggie,” I called after her. “You might be next.”

“That bastard,” I heard her say. Then she broke down crying.

“Mind if I come in?” I asked, peeking inside.

She nodded.

The place was clean and decorated nicely. She was hunched over on the couch.

“Who’s Eggie?” I eased around her and drew the living room curtains back. There was a perfect view of the alley behind her building and a familiar brown van.

Oh shit.

“I’m her husband,” Eggie said behind me. “I told the bitch I’d kill him if she saw him again.”

I ducked and barely avoided the bullet aimed at my head. The window exploded. I threw the tire iron and caught him at the knees. He crumpled, dropped his automatic. I picked it up.

Linda was hysterical.

“Shut up,” I commanded.

At that very moment, I realized there was no rehabilitation for guys like me.

I pressed the gun to Eggie’s temple and thought about all that meat rotting in the trunk of Erwin’s car.

I pulled the trigger.

Then I smoked one on Erwin’s cigarettes and waited for the cops to show.

And as no good deed goes unpunished, the jury found me guilty.

They’re giving me the lethal injection.

The inmates call it a dead giveaway.


Angel Zapata was born in NYC, but currently resides just outside of Augusta, Georgia. Some of his fiction and poetry has appeared in the Toe Tags Anthology, Mausoleum Memoirs, Long Live the New Flesh: Year One and Year Two, The Best of Every Day Fiction: Volume 2, Howl: Dark Tales of the Feral and Infernal, Branded Words, The Best of Every Day Poets: Volume 2, and the zombie anthology: Putrid Poetry and Sickening Sketches. He is also author of the Trestle Press short story horror series, The Man of Shadows. http://arageofangel.blogspot.com/

11 comments:

Paul D. Brazill said...

Great stuff.

Chris Rhatigan said...

Spare and filled with action. I dig it.

Rosalind Smith-Nazilli said...

Brilliant..

David Barber said...

Angel, considering I've known you for your dark, horror stories and excellent poetry, you blew me away with this piece. Gritty and well paced, I really enjoyed it. Thanks for sending it my way!

Erin Cole said...

Loved the language, Angel, especially the internal monologue. Poor Anthony - I kind of liked him.

ajhayes2 said...

Saw Zapata on it. Knew it was gonna be good. It was. AZ tells more story with fewer words than anybody on the game. And he's got the absolutely best profile picture ever taken. Life just ain't fair.

Benjamin Sobieck said...

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how you tell more with less. I've always believed character shines through with fragment sentences. This piece shows how to do it in spades. There's a load of story that stretches beyond the short sentences. And somehow I'm on the same author roster as him over at Trestle Press. Makes me feel like unworthy meat rotting in a trunk.

Bill Baber said...

awesome! awesome! awesome! with no description of him, this narrator totally came to life- great story!

Harry said...

"Mr. Nosy tapped me on the shoulder. Bad move. The tire iron had a good weight in my hand.

Thump.

Good night."

Really cool stuff, Angel!

Thomas Pluck said...

Now thats some hardboiled.. loved it. And I know a guy named Eggie. Ain't seen him in a year or two though, now I know why...

Chris Allinotte said...

I loved this, Angel. The feeling that the world has left him behind permeates this whole thing, right up until he finds himself on familiar territory - and it's his satisfaction and "comfort" smoking that cigarette that ties everything all together.

Anthony reminds me a bit of "Marv" from Sin City - and putting that character into a Wal-Mart - genius.